And then, just when they’re needed most, in swoopeth the skinny Jewish guy and the portly Catholic guy to save the day and serve up the laughs like a veteran comedy team straight off the vaudeville boards. At first things don’t look too rosy on the set of Siskel and Ebert and the Movies-- the pair are desultorily making their way through a series on promos to be sent out to their syndicated stations for some upcoming shows. Roger speeds through the copy too quickly, and Gene gets prickly. Gene flubs the name of the show, and Roger’s stack gets ready to blow. And then, as if by magic, the (probably) real tension gives way to ribald, good-natured (and, again, eye-poppingly profane) trash talk, a wild Ping-Pong match of F-bombs and religious insults that breezily illustrates just how these two, whose legendary prickliness toward each other was reportedly not entirely an act, managed to learn to get along with each other while introducing a form of film criticism to a generation of TV-watching movie geeks. (It’ll also make you believe without a shadow of a doubt that Ebert is indeed the man who wrote Beyond the Valley of the Dolls!) Forgive me if you've seen this before, but after the whole Huckabees explosion it seemed like a good time to see some on-set sparring that was meant to be funny... Just think what Ray Harryhausen could have done with this clash!
It’s been a couple of months since Jim Emerson passed along an update on Roger Ebert’s condition, but the most recent word is that he is recovering, although through “a staged, multi-phased approach” that is taking longer, clearly, than Mr. Ebert would like. But as he put it in his letter, “To borrow from the Chicago Bears, we tried for the long pass, but now we're going for a series of shorter passes until we score a touchdown… Let me just say that I hope to return soon. As Faulkner says: ‘We shall not merely prevail, we shall endure.’” Speaking for all of us who watched his show from its earliest days and now eagerly await his return, we wish you well, Mr. Ebert.
(Hey, Kim, any tape like this of you and Roeper we can look forward to?)